It’s a pleasure to be back among my fellow Altrusans! It’s only been about 60 years! First, a little background on my service at the UN.
I have always been assigned to Committee III. That is the committee that deals with education, cultural, and humanitarian subjects. When I was first put on this Committee, I felt quite sure that one reason for the assignment was that our delegation was worried about having a woman as one of the delegates. They said, "Committee III--that's safe. She can't do anything there." Sometimes I think it has not been quite as safe as they thought it would be at the beginning.
When someone commented on how I chaired my meetings, I said, "I drive hard and when I get home I will be tired! The men on the Commission will be also!" One member went so far as to suggest that his own human rights were violated by the length of the meetings!
I am pleased to say that the Declaration included the following statement: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food…"
I long ago decided that the first human right for which people fight is the right to eat.
Freedom to eat is one of the most important freedoms.
Food is a real weapon both for war and for peace.
Hunger, lack of opportunity, poverty, unhappy people—they make war; they make revolutions. . .
The hunger of the world demands our sympathy and our production.
The first great human right to most of the people of the world is the right to eat. We have been blessed by the Almighty with a land that provides us with a surplus of food and yet we have not learned how to share this surplus with the people of the world.
If we eat, but our neighbors starve, we may have power for a little while, but we will not have assurance of peace and security for all.
Somehow we in this country who have so little experience of what it is like when there is no food available have got to try to understand this situation. For us, hunger comes to people who cannot afford to buy, but there is always the chance that some kind person will buy for one or that the government will look after one's needs. But when there just is no food, neither kindness nor the government can provide it. This is the kind of situation that calls for much imagination on our part in order to understand.
We cannot exist as a little island of well being in a world where two-thirds of the people go to bed hungry every night.
Freedom means nothing to a man with an empty stomach. He will accept a dictator if, with the dictator, comes the promise of food shelter.
Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.
On the evening of 10 December 1948, the General Assembly endorsed the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights without amendment. There were no dissenting votes, but eight countries abstained. The Assembly, in a rare gesture of appreciation, gave Mrs. Roosevelt a standing ovation.
Assembled by Christopher M. Young, based on an concept suggested by Patricia Young, with quotes provided by Dr. Allida M. Black, from the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers project, George Washington University (© 2007 Christopher Young and Patricia Young, Washington, DC.) http://www.worldfooddayusa.org/CMS/2952/17831.aspx